We are pleased to welcome with us today a very talented young author, Anna Staniszewski.
Born in Poland and raised in the United States, Anna Staniszewski grew up loving stories in both Polish and English. She was named the 2006-2007 Writer-in-Residence at the Boston Public Library and a winner of the 2009 PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award. When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time teaching, reading, and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch. She is the author of My Very UnFairy Tale Life series, published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. Look for the first book in Anna’s next tween series, The Dirt Diary, in January 2014, and you can learn more about her at www.annastan.com.
Anna was kind enough to answer some questions for us today, so without further ado, here she is!
About My Very UnFairy Tale Life
Where did you draw your inspiration from for your characters?
A few years ago, I was listening to a story on the radio about teen mortification that mentioned a girl cleaning houses with her mom, including the houses of some of her classmates. The minute I heard that story, I knew I had to write it. But it wasn’t until I actually put pen to paper that the main character, Rachel, came to life. In some ways, she was like me (wacky, funny, and painfully shy) but in others, she wasn’t at all (an aspiring pastry chef and a rule breaker). There were so many layers to her character that I knew I had to keep digging.
Ok,I have to admit that I had to google “teen mortification”. I think I get it! lol
What is YOUR favorite part of the book?
This might sound cruel of me, but I think my favorite part is toward the end of the book when all the secrets and lies that Rachel has been juggling spiral into a perfect storm of awfulness. I think that’s my favorite part because after bringing Rachel to her lowest point, I was excited to figure out a way to bring her back up again.
I think it is an important life lesson for tween and teen girls that even though you make mistakes, you can still recover.
Can we expect more books from you in the future?
I’m currently putting the finishing touches on the second book in the Dirt Diary series, The Prank List, due out in July, and I’m writing the third book, The Gossip File, which is scheduled for January 2015. I’m also excited for my first picture book, Power Down, Little Robot, forthcoming from Henry Holt in Spring 2015.
Holey moley – you have been one busy writer! I can’t wait to check out the Dirt Diary series – it sounds like something my tween daughter would really enjoy.
About Being an Author:
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up? What inspired you to choose to write books?
When I was young, I wanted to be a teacher, a writer, a ballerina, and an astronaut. I’m happy to report that the first two have come true. Sadly, I think the boat might have sailed on the second two. ?
I’m not sure I ever chose to write books. To be honest, I can barely remember a time when I wasn’t writing. I’ve loved stories since I was very young, either listening to them or reading them or making up my own. Even if I wasn’t an author now, I think I would still write for myself. It just feels like a part of me.
LOL ~ you would have been very busy if you had done all four! You remind me of my daughter. She has been writing stories for as long as I can remember. She even had her babysitter write out a story she dictated to her over three months time. Sometimes, it’s just what someone should be doing!
What advice would you give someone aspiring to write a children’s book?
I would give the advice that I wish someone had given me: Make writing a priority no matter what. It’s easy to let other responsibilities get in the way of writing, but the only way you can succeed as a writer is if you put it at the top of your list and treat it like a job.
That is so true of any goal someone sets for themselves. That is great advice!
Can you tell us about the challenges you have faced in marketing your books? What works? What’s a bust?
Marketing middle grade/tween fiction can be a challenge because, unlike with young adult books, you don’t have many opportunities to interact with readers, especially online. Often, you wind up marketing more to the adults (parents, teachers, librarians, bloggers) than to the young readers themselves. That’s one reason I like to do local events and school visits; it helps get the word out about my books while also giving me a chance to connect with young audiences.
I’ve had many a conversation about how difficult it is to market and sell middle grade books, precisely for the reason you state. It is difficult to gain access to your target audience. However, with teens and tweens getting more and more internet savvy, that may shift over time.
More About Reading and Writing:
What are some of your favourite books from when you were a child and did any of these inspire you when writing your books?
I loved stories that mixed the real world with the imagined, such as A Little Princess, A Wrinkle in Time, and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. I try to create that same feeling in my books. In My Very UnFairy Tale series, I literally mixed the real world with a magical one, while in The Dirt Diary, I tried to root the story in real life while infusing it with some over-the-top situations and humor.
I totally agree! Some of the best stories have characters that children can identify with who get whisked away to magical lands or find themselves in fantastical or extraordinary situations.
Which authors have influenced you the most and how?
I’m in absolute awe of Lois Lowry whose lyrical books have absolutely no wasted words, and of MT Anderson who can write dark YA novels and hilarious middle-grade books equally well. I also love Wendy Mass because of her relatable and engaging characters and stories. I try to channel all three authors in my own writing.
My daughter is currently reading “Number the Stars” at school. I’m going to read it as she’s reading it! I haven’t run across MT Anderson – I’ll have to check out his books.
More About the Author:
What do you do when you are not writing or reading?
When I’m not writing, reading, eating chocolate, or playing with my dog, I teach writing at Simmons College in Boston. As I mentioned above, I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was young, and I’m beyond grateful that my dream has come true. I love teaching because it gets me out of my sweatpants and forces me talk to non-imaginary people once in a while.
LOL – I can relate to the sweatpants!
• Sport to Watch? Baseball
• Dessert? Anything chocolate-y.
• Season? Summer! It’s the only time of year when my fingers aren’t cold.
• Animal? I can feel my dog staring at me as I write this. Dog, of course.
• Colour? Eggplant.
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